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Paradise Island, originally known as Hog Island, across the bridge from Nassau in the Bahamas, is one of those places I had always wanted to visit. It was for years an offshore haunt of Meyer Lansky. The reputation of its casino was heroically unsavoury. In recent times the property was acquired by Resorts International in Atlantic City, then sold on to Merv Griffin. Now it has a new owner.

I finally got to Paradise Island, via a poker cruise round the Caribbean. The voyage consisted of playing poker all night and snorkelling the coral reefs by day. Could anything be more self-indulgent? Or, for a poker player, more enjoyable? A poker cruise is an ideal present to give yourself for 1998. The cost, for two people, with all meals and no extras, runs from around $1,600 a person for a 10-day cruise, depending on the size of cabin. The trip is easy, comfortable and amusing. In fact, at those prices, you would be hard pressed to find a resort hotel in the United States to match it, quite apart from the pleasures of the voyage itself.

Anyway, our last port of call was Nassau. Paradise Island did not disappoint. The casino, it appears, has become respectable at last. Acquired by Sol Kerzner, of Sun City fame, three years ago, it has now been turned into a full-scale Vegas-style resort. Where previous operators saw a declining investment, Kerzner sensed a new opportunity for his particular brand of "blowing away the customer" with high entertainment value.

Sun International owns 580 acres of the 800-acre island, with its golden beaches and blue lagoons. At a cost of $140m in redevelopment, he had the new Atlantis Resort and Casino up and running in seven months. Last year, the operation reported $44m earnings, pre-tax. The casino boasts 800 slots and 70 tables of games. A major expansion of hotel and casino space is already under way.

There are a lot of little casinos dotted around the Caribbean to tempt cruise passengers and tourists. There was even a small casino on board the Holland America liner I sailed on. Most of these places are worth only a passing flutter. But the Atlantis looks like the real thing.

Two cruises for 1998 are: "Alaska Discovery", 2-9 August, from Vancouver, from $1,091; and "Fall Foliage", Bermuda, New England and Nova Scotia, 19-29 October, from New York, from $1,620. Details from B & F enterprises, 1751 East Reno Avenue, Las Vegas, Nevada 89119, fax (702) 798 8981.

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